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California Sea Lion vs Steller Sea Lion: West Coast Clash!

California Sea Lions vs. Steller Sea Lion: West Coast Clash!

The ecosystems of the West Coast of the United States are home to a wide variety of marine life. Among these incredible creatures are two distinctly different types of sea lions: the California Sea Lion and the Steller Sea Lion. These majestic animals are often seen together in their natural habitats, but the differences between them are more than just skin deep.

Going to the Source

The Steller Sea Lion is one of the largest species of sea lions, and it is native to the northern Pacific Ocean. It can be found as far north as Alaska and as far south as California, but it is most common off the coast of Oregon and Washington. The California Sea Lion, meanwhile, is found in the inshore waters of the Eastern Pacific, from Mexico’s Baja Peninsula all the way up to British Columbia.

Appearance: Color and Grooming

The California Sea Lion and the Steller Sea Lion have quite different appearances. The California Sea Lion is usually lighter in color, usually in shades of blonde and brown, while the Steller Sea Lion is often much darker in hue, with a color range of black to dark brown.

In addition to their color, the two species also differ in the way they seem to groom themselves. The California Sea Lion is much more fastidious in its grooming, often preening and rubbing itself to stay clean. The Steller Sea Lion appears to be much less concerned with cleanliness and grooming, often appearing messy and unkempt.

Size Differences

The size of the two species of sea lions can vary greatly. The California Sea Lion is much smaller, typically reaching lengths of around 8 feet and weighing up to 500 pounds. The Steller Sea Lion, on the other hand, can grow to a staggering length of over 11 feet and can weigh up to 1,500 pounds.

California Sea Lion vs Steller Sea Lion: West Coast Clash! two

Behavioral Differences

The behavior and habits of the two species also vary quite significantly. The California Sea Lion is a highly social creature, often found in large groups. It is also quite active and loves to play, often engaged in activities ranging from swimming to foraging for food.

The Steller Sea Lion, on the other hand, is much more solitary and isolated in its behavior. While it still forms small groups, they are usually much smaller than the large gatherings of their California Sea Lion counterparts. The Steller Sea Lion is also much more sedentary than its other West Coast cousin, rarely engaging in activities such as active play.


The diets of the two species can vary wildly, as the Steller Sea Lion diet is much richer than that of the California Sea Lion. The Steller Sea Lion diet consists of a mix of fish, squid, and other marine mammals, while the California Sea Lion feeds mainly on smaller species such as fish and small invertebrates, with the occasional squid or octopus thrown in.


The two different species of sea lions have different levels of intelligence, although it is difficult to compare them accurately, due to the vast differences between the species. The California Sea Lion is known for its high levels of intelligence and adaptability, and has been observed playing, using tools to obtain food, and forming tight social groups.

The Steller Sea Lion, meanwhile, is known for its slower pace, and seems to exhibit far less intelligence than its smaller California Sea Lion counterpart. While the Steller Sea Lion is still capable of learning and adapting to a certain degree, its cognition is on a much lower level than California Sea Lions.

California Sea Lion vs. Steller Sea Lion: A Wrap-Up

Though they share many similarities, the California Sea Lion and the Steller Sea Lion are two vastly different species, both in appearance and behavior. The Steller Sea Lion is the largest of the two, with a much richer diet and lower levels of intelligence. The California Sea Lion is smaller, lighter, and more active, with higher levels of intelligence and social behavior.

Both species play an important role in their ecosystem and should be protected and respected. As these animals are often seen side by side in their native habitats, the differences between them can be a sight to behold, a reminder of the astounding variety and beauty of the natural world.

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